Can your mindset help your business survive an economic downturn?

Yeah right! I can already hear the majority response. But let’s stop and think again…


I suspect you’ve heard the saying – “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are right”. I’ve seen business owners in the same sector tackle the same economic realities very differently and of course realise very different results.

I have a client in the fitness sector – she leases a small space which she uses to run step classes, offer one-to-one training and she also earns income from letting other trainers use the space at set times. Then lockdown hit.

Initially she was terrified. Terrified she would lose everything she had worked so hard for. Terrified that she would have no income. Terrified life would never be the same again.

She was right about the last one. Life would never be the same again. However, the other catastrophes did not materialise…

We worked on her fear and looked at some of her concerns from different perspectives.

Fear 1 – I will lose everything…

My client believed she would have no clients if she could not open her gym….
I asked her to think about it from her client’s perspective. She realised that her clients still wanted a solution, and they were as frustrated as she was that they were unable to attend classes or one-to-one sessions.

Then I made her dig deep – what could she do given the stringent rules at the time? She asked her clients. Some wanted to work out in the park, others were happy to work out online. There were a few who just wanted to wait things out.
In response to her client’s feedback, she developed online training sessions and took the step classes online.

The online step classes ended up attracting clients from all over the UK. It turns out her original clients told their friends and, as location did not matter anymore, many more people signed up than for her face-to-face classes.

She ran online one-to-one training sessions, then realised she could pre-record training sessions to offer clients who wanted more flexible timings. So, she ended up growing that market too.

Fear 2 – I will have no income…

My client ended up with a much wider client base than she had before lockdown started. Now that everything is opened up, she still runs online step classes (getting the camera angle right with people in the gym was challenging but sorted eventually); and she still offers the pre-recorded training.

She has now reviewed her accounts and realised that aside from a downturn during the first couple of months of lockdown, she maintained her income levels. Better still, she now expects this year’s income to be around 35% higher because she has retained so many of her online clients too.

Fear 3 – Things will never be the same again…

Yes, this is true – my client now has a larger business than what she had and she finds that she has more flexibility as she has been able to shift quite a few clients to pre-recorded programmes.

Contrast this with the perspective of another fitness instructor I met in a business networking forum. She was convinced that it was impossible to work online as she did not have the tech know-how and she was "too old" (my client is probably older and did not have the skills either but got help from her son). This instructor has returned to training since we opened up but has found she was having to rebuild her business.

The morale here?

When we are scared it is very easy to get wrapped up in ourselves. This is to be expected as our brains are wired to go into self-preservation mode when under threat.

Being able to challenge the assumptions we make and look at the situation from lots of different perspectives can make all the difference to our ability to thrive and build in spite of situations that seem threatening.

I sometimes use an approach called “perceptual positions” when helping clients deal with difficult situations – it works best when an objective person facilitating, however it is also very possible to do on your own; so take a look below and consider giving it a try if you ever find yourself struggling:

Step 1

Consider what you are worried about:

  • Ask what beliefs you hold about the situation – example: clients will not value online training.
  • Ask what is important about the situation – example: this is my source of income.
  • List your assumptions about the situation – example: my income will stop.
  • Determine what you want – example: I need to retain my revenue.

Take a little break before moving to the next step.

Step 2

Think about other people involved in the situation. These could be associates, clients, employees – anyone that might have a stake in the situation. Put yourself in their shoes and ask the same questions as in Step 1

  • Ask what beliefs clients hold about the situation – example: I will miss my regular training.
  • Ask what is important about the situation – example: this is my only way of staying fit/unwinding after work etc…
  • List possible client assumptions about the situation – example: I will gain weight/I will lose a key tool for keeping my depression at bay.
  • Consider what clients want – example: I would love to continue to exercise.

Step 3

Consider the situation from the perspective of someone that is not involved at all; an impartial person who might want to provide helpful suggestions to assist both you and the other people involved in the situation. What might they suggest?

The simple steps above are likely to open up new possibilities and allow you to break out of the “survival mode” thinking that our brains are wired to respond with initially.

Remember – whether you say you can, or you say you can’t – you are right!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London SW1Y & NW9
Written by Ola Molade, Business Coach MBA, MICF
London SW1Y & NW9

Ola works with female founders to help them create the life and business they want without compromise.
She combines her: previous experience as a business consultant, her life experience of running her own business, and her enjoyment of coaching, into a deep passion for seeing female business owners thrive and succeed.

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